Wednesday, September 8, 2021
On All Those Week 1 Upsets
The specter, the possibility, of the upset — and I've written this many times here over the years — is probably the biggest reason I am a sports fan. My favorite sport is college football.
Suffice to say, Week 1 of the college football season was manna from heaven for yours truly.
There were six — count 'em, six — victories by FCS schools over FBS schools. That's double the number of our last normal year, 2019. I was all set to write how that's the most in a single week ever, but by Gadfrey, turns out in 2013 there were seven such opening week upsets.
To be sure, a couple of these matchups — namely Eastern Washington over UNLV and South Dakota State over Colorado State — featured FCS powers over FBS lightweights and were only upsets in the categorization sense. But then again, there were also a couple of FBS minnows knocking off P5 schools.
To wit, just a week after beating Nebraska, Illinois hilariously fell at home to Texas-San Antonio. Good luck betting on or against the Illini this year. As an aside, I've always had a weird fascination with hugely fat coaches — Charlie Weis, Mark Mangino, Tom Anstutz.
We can add Bret Bielema to that list now. He was a husky dude when he was coaching Wisconsin and Arkansas, but he is absolutely ginormous now.
Another G5 over P5 win of note was Northern Illinois over Georgia Tech. If you've only casually followed CFB lately, this might not seem like much of an upset, with Northern Illinois frequent dominance of the MAC. But those days are over and Northern Illinois was the worst of the MAC West last year.
The four remaining FCS over FBS wins this week were, in order of OMGness:
4. UC Davis over Tulsa — Yes, UC Davis is an FCS power, but Tulsa wasn't supposed to be so bad as to lose to anyone in FCS.
3. Holy Cross over UConn — Yes, UConn is among the worst 5 FBS schools, but Holy Cross is not an FCS power.
2. East Tennessee State over Vanderbilt — Wow, on this one. Yes, Vanderbilt is bad, but they are hardly the worst Power 5 team as long as Kansas is Kansas. East Tennessee State, in their last full year, was 3-9. They beat the Commodores on Saturday, 23-3.
1. Montana over Washington — This is the first time an FCS school has beaten a ranked FBS team since 2016, when North Dakota State beat Iowa.
The Montana win over the Huskies provides a nice segue into a cautionary tale about what to do with this information if you are a bettor.
Washington now goes on the road to play Michigan at the big house this Saturday. Michigan, notably, did not get bit by the upset bug and easily dispatched a well-regarded Western Michigan squad. Michigan is 6.5-point favorites over Washington at this writing.
This may tempt you to bet your wedding ring on Michigan. Don't! Losing to a FCS school as a ranked FBS team is not a death sentence. In 2010, Virginia Tech, ranked 13th, lost to James Madison. They went on the run the table in ACC Conference play.
No, I think a better betting lesson is, "almost anything can happen in Week 1." Since every FBS team has played now, things will revert to whatever the norm turns out to be, which may not be well-reflected, in the end, by Week 1 results.
But do take a good hard look at the underdogs in the NFL Week 1, and the NHL and NBA on night one.